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Mountain principal resigns

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By Carol A. Clark

It’s finally official following weeks of speculation, a barrage of rumors, anonymous tips, off-the-record-meetings and “no comment it’s a personnel issue” responses - Mike Katko is no longer principal of Mountain Elementary School.

“I’m amazed and still thankful for the 359 people who took their time and cared enough to sign a petition supporting my management style,” Katko said in an interview Wednesday evening. “All of these people recognized and supported my kind of leadership.”

Katko went before the school board in closed session to present the petition indicating the strong support he had from Mountain parents and students.

“I can’t say what happened at that meeting but I ended up still resigning,” he said. Katko served four years as principal of Mountain.

The story that Katko’s job was in question broke in the Monitor on March 25. It was written based on a number of telephone calls that morning from alarmed parents and teachers and the refusal by school officials and Katko to talk about it.

Expressions of concern by by some, some charged the story was baseless and others feared the principal was being forced out.

The facts behind Katko’s leaving may never be known but he does want to make one thing perfectly clear.

“While I can’t discuss the details of my resignation, I want everyone to know that it has nothing to do with anything improper or illegal or anything like that,” he said. “I’ve been thinking a lot about it and I think when the winds of change are upon you there’s not a lot you can do about it,” he said.

“I want to remain positive and at times like this I’m reminded of a Dr. Seuss saying, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over but smile because it happened’.”

Katko is relieved it’s over, he said, adding that he still can’t believe the support he received from parents and students.

“I will miss them all so much,” he said. “But I love Los Alamos and I will never leave here. I still have my job on KRSN so people will still be hearing my voice and I will still be doing the PA announcements at the high school with Morrie Pongratz and Gene Mortensen, which I’ve been doing for 20 years.”

Katko accepted a position as principal of the sixth grade academy in Pojoaque, he said, and was a finalist for the principal job at St. Michael’s in Santa Fe.

“I have nothing bad to say about Los Alamos Public Schools and I have no ill will toward anyone,” Katko said. “I’m thankful for my time there and overwhelmed by the amount of people who supported my management style of leadership. They’ve inspired my to do even more with my life.”

Los Alamos Middle School Assistant Principal Gerry Washburn is Mountain’s new principal. Calls to Washburn and Superintendent Mary McLeod for comment were not returned.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505)662-4185 ext. 25. Read her newsblog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.